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The Bihar administration has collected samples from the river Ganga and sent for testing to check Covid-19 contamination. The development comes after dead bodies were found floating in the river last month.

"The sampling of Ganga river is a routine thing which we carry out on a regular basis. The pollution board investigates the quality of water of the Ganga river. But as you know, there were reports of bodies of Covid-19 victims disposed of in the river. So, we are conducting tests to check whether the river has been contaminated with coronavirus," Bihar State Pollution Control Board scientist Navin Kumar told news agency ANI.

The scientist said that the initiative was taken through the National Mission for Ganga under the Jal Shakti Ministry, in collaboration with the Indian Institute for Toxicological Research (IITR), Lucknow.

IITR is a laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the state pollution control board, and the district administration.

Kumar said that the team collected samples from river Ganga on 1 June in Buxar and on 5 June in Patna, Bhojpur and Saran. The samples have been sent to Lucknow for testing and the reports are awaited.

"A central team of scientists arrived here from Lucknow to inspect and collect samples. The team collected samples from river Ganga on 1 June in Buxar and on 5 June in Patna, Bhojpur and Saran to check whether bodies reportedly seen in and around the river contaminated river water," said the scientist.

On 17 May, the Centre had asked Uttar Pradesh and Bihar government to prevent dumping of dead bodies in Ganga and its tributaries, calling media reports of bodies of Covid-19 victims being dumped in the rivers "undesirable and alarming".

The Jal Shakti Ministry had said that the state governments should focus on their safe disposal and dignified cremation.

On 13 May, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued notices to the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar, after receiving complaints about dead bodies floating in the Ganga.

Namami Gange had directed states to prevent dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga "and focus on their safe disposal and providing support for ensuring dignified cremation," the Jal Shakti Ministry had said at a review meeting conducted on 15-16 May.

The state pollution control boards were also directed to monitor the water quality more frequently in consultations with the health departments.

With inputs from agencies.

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